Monday, December 17, 2018
You may have noticed me posting a lot recently on social media about a collection of shirts and hoodies called #WisdomRemixed. That's a little thing my friend and I started as an opportunity to do something creative together. What follows is the rationale behind it. I hope you like it!
"What you have learned, you must unlearn."
- Yoda, #WisdomRemixed
Something magical happens every now and then. Some artful, imaginative, deep soul will string a few words together, all the necessary elements of insight align, and a little bit of timeless, transcendent wisdom emerges. And the world is better for it.
But before too long, nuggets of wisdom get passed around so much that they become stale. A cliché is, essentially, timeless truth corroded by time. We start to lose sight of the essential insight of our insights. And so even when found in possession of wisdom, we are gradually, insidiously becoming less wise.
A cliché is, essentially, timeless truth corroded by time. #wisdomremixed
We unlearn, we relearn, and we reclaim the wisdom of those who came before us.
Wear #wisdomremixed with pride! Post photos of you out and about in these shirts and hoodies! Send us your own remixed wisdom! As the great Ferris Bueller once (sort of) said:
“If you don’t stop and look around once in a while,
life moves pretty fast.”#WisdomRemixed
Check out the catalog of offerings at https://wisdom-remixed.myshopify.com/. More items to come!
Friday, December 07, 2018
Have you heard about the woman whose full name includes the command prefixes of two AI devices on the market? Alexa Seary says her life has become “a waking nightmare” since Apple and later Amazon introduced their virtual assistants. At least now, I suppose, her friends are ordering her around using her first name instead of her last name. Ha ha very funny. We opened our home to artificial intelligence this year when Kara’s sister gave us two Amazon Echo Dots. So far we use them mostly for weather reports, sci-fi humor (“Tea. Earl grey. Hot.” Ha ha very funny), and music. Here’s the problem: Your virtual assistant is more loyal to her corporate creator than to you. So Alexa will not link to our iTunes account; she will only access our Amazon account. That means I can listen to all the music I’ve bought Kara’s mom through Amazon, but none of the music I've bought for myself through iTunes. (Not to mention none of the music Kara's mom has bought for me. And she and I . . . well, we have different musical tastes.) That’s okay, because I am still, by and large, stubborn about owning music in physical form. Whenever possible, I go vinyl. So for Christmas I also got two brand new records: If All I Was Was Black by the great Mavis Staples, and Fifteen by the Wailin’ Jennys. “Little Bit” and “Try Harder.” But also check out her collaborations with Arcade Fire: “I Give You Power” and the Talking Heads track “Slippery People.” Powerful and prophetic—classic Mavis. The Wailin’ Jennys is, I suppose, technically a “super group.” Three women, each doing just fine as a solo act, decided to get together. Their voices are heavenly together. They broke up a while ago but reunited for their fifteenth anniversary, with a new album of favorite covers and a tour to support it. They actually came to Colorado Springs while I was out of town. Sigh. Fifteen came out the year Tom Petty died, so a cover of his “Wildflowers” was perhaps inevitable. But it’s amazing. I could listen to it over and over and over. Also of note is the cover of “The Valley” by K. D. Lang, a song I’d heard but never really noticed, a sad and knowing piece with a hopeful chorus. That and “Keep Me in Your Heart,” which Warren Zevon wrote from his death bed, are now shortlisted for my own funeral playlist. I also, kind of as a joke, got the new Taylor Swift CD, Reputation, for Christmas. It’s pretty good, although whoever started the “Old Taylor is dead” thing (spoiler alert: it was Taylor herself) needs to take a second pass. 1989 was her Great Leap Forward; this is just her natural next step. *** This post is excerpted from the Spring 2018 issue of Middling, an occasional e-newsletter I send out, focused on music, books, and life in middle age. Let me know if you'd like to get it. Postscript: The Mavis Staples album has indeed grown on me. You should get it.
Friday, November 23, 2018
Some jokes are wasted on the young. Case in point: “Electric Boogaloo,” the subtitle to the sequel of the movie Breakin’, which I first saw at a theater in Neillsville, Wisconsin, with my cousins when we were young. That’s how I remember it, at least. Breakin’ was a theatrical attempt to capitalize on white suburban fascination with hip hop dance. It certainly worked on us. At the end of the credits for that first film we were told to keep an eye out for the second, but by the time Electric Boogaloo hit the theaters I had moved on to other interests—hair metal, maybe. (The time bleeds together.) I still to this day have never seen the sequel, but I love the cadence of the title, and I find myself throwing back to it every time I reference the second in a sequence of something. Millennials rarely get the joke. Such is the travail of the middle-aged life. I am reminded almost daily of the ephemerality of our preoccupations. The things that fascinate us, the things that shock us, the things that seem so earth-shatteringly important will one day seem cute and immaterial, the way old people seem to young people. One day I myself will be that old and cute and immaterial artifact. It’s only a matter of time. I’m writing this the day after the birthday of the late great Thomas Merton, a mid-twentieth century monk whose writings have been significant for me. He died fifty years ago this year; he was five years older than I will be this year when he died. Among his later writings is the fantastic book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, which covers a lot of ground but ends with a refreshingly nondualistic reflection on the ephemera of every age: There is the hope, there is the world that remakes itself at God's command without consulting us. . . . The glitter is false? Well, the light is true. The glitter has ceased to matter. It is even beautiful. It occurs to me that the middling age is the opportunity to look beyond the glitter to the light. At first that can feel like a great giving up, even like a rapid succession of great givings up, with no assurance on the far end that we’ll have anything left. But from the angle Merton describes, this looking beyond is a gift, a truer seeing of everything. Kara and I rewatched Breakin’ a year or so ago. It was huge for her, apparently, when she was a kid. It was cheesy, but fun. You should check it out. *** This is an excerpt from an occasional e-newsletter I send out, focused on books, music, and life in middle age. This excerpt is from the spring 2018 issue. Let me know if you'd like to be on the distribution list.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
When Stan Lee was a student, he was clowning around with friends in the classroom office of the school paper when he spotted a ladder. "“So I climbed up and wrote Stan Lee Is God on the ceiling, which was one of the earliest evidences of my overpowering inferiority complex.” He was joking, of course: Stan Lee was a lot of things, but he was not dealing with an inferiority complex. Joining the comic book industry in its infancy, Stan Lee, who died this week at the age of 95, worked like a horse for decades, seeing the fortunes of his chosen media rise and fall in the process. By the time he found himself working for Marvel Comics, the superhero genre was running on fumes, a caricature of its former greatness. It was all monsters all the time for Marvel. And then Stan and Jack Kirby came up with the Fantastic Four, a highly dysfunctional family of superheroes made powerful by exposure to radiation. There was even a monster among them--the Thing, a man whose body had been mutated into orange rock. And Stan saw what he had made, and it was very good. And so a universe was born, and in a sense Stan's scribbling at the top of the ladder was proven prophetic.